Saturday, July 9, 2016

Life as a Highly Sensitive Catholic


When I was a little girl, my teachers would tell my parents that I was highly sensitive; I would cry easier than other kids. It was looked down upon as a flaw. They thought it was low self-esteem. They thought I was too coddled by my parents. This continued as I got older. Doctors would say I was just a really anxious person who didn't know how to handle too much stress at a time. Then I found out something revolutionary thanks to Anne of Mrs. Modern Darcy: I'm actually considered a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

For all of you who don't want to read through all the articles: being a HSP means that I am more sensitive to both emotional and physical stimulation. Loud noises, extreme temperatures, even the effects of medications -- I feel them a lot more intensely than most other people. It wasn't something I picked up growing up; I was just born with this trait.

I'm empathetic to the point of tears when I see someone suffering even in the littlest way, which is why I had to leave social media (for the night) a couple of days ago when all the shooting chaos began. I can't sit through any violent scenes or even listen to intense fighting. I faint easily in hot weather (heat sensitivity) if I'm not cool enough. Medication side effects are stronger than I'd like. (side note: last ER visit when I felt like I was going to faint? Antibiotics were so strong that it caused that feeling and it increased my anxiety about 3-fold for 72 hours after my last dose. Anxiety has been gone after I hit the 72 hour mark though my stomach still feels like I have a brick in it.)

After reading about the 16 Habits of HSP, as well as the 12 Things a HSP Needs, I didn't feel quite so alone or odd. However, it didn't hit some just how much I struggled with this label until I read the article on how a young woman learned to love herself as a HSP. This article hit home because, despite being aware that HSP was a real thing (my childhood doctor even confirmed it a couple of years ago; I do have a very sensitive body that can't handle certain medications nor caffeine), I still struggled with accepting and even loving this part of myself.

I've always felt like it was more of a flaw than an asset, one that I couldn't "fix" and that was looked down upon by most other people (especially doctors). After the past week in which I spent 6 out of 7 days in the hospital, it became even worse; I couldn't pray or feel like I could do much. I've recently began on my own journey in trying to learn to love this side of myself but I know I still have a long, long way to go.

Now, let's talk about being a HSP who is also Catholic. I love, love, love the smell of incense... but when it's too strong (or too close to where I'm sitting), I get lightheaded, nauseous, and a headache will pop up. I don't like clapping at Mass. I don't like Spanish Masses because of the music (usually involving a guitar and drums or Mariachi). I like my Masses solemn. I don't mind babies crying or babbling during Mass because I love babies so that doesn't bother me. Altar wine can be too strong for me at times.

I think being a HSP is why I quickly fell in love with wearing mantillas/chapel veils; it helps me focus solely on the Mass. Because the veil literally blocks my surrounding views and gives me a bit of "tunnel vision" in which my eyes will be focused on the altar or on the missalette, it helps me not get too distracted by what other parishioners are doing during Mass.

Lent? I can't make it through reenactments of the Stations of the Cross. I actually almost fainted the first time I watched The Passion of the Christ in one of my Religious Studies courses as an undergrad. I had to look away, something I knew my other classmates took notice of (there were less than 10 of us in that class; only 3 Religious Studies majors in my class).

The Rosary? I couldn't make it through the Sorrowful Mysteries without being a blubbering mess the first couple of years after my reversion. Though I still occasionally cry, it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be. I also don't like noise while I pray because I can get easily distracted and then overwhelmed. It's not fun. lol.

I felt like sharing this because I don't think it's talked about enough. Being a highly sensitive person isn't bad (and I'm going to keep repeating that to myself); it just means that we can get overstimulated more easily than other people. If 15-20% of the population is considered a HSP, then I know I'm not alone. :) If you're wondering if you're a highly sensitive person, you can take a self-test here.

Alright, I should go do something productive with my day. :)

I hope y'all are having a good weekend thus far. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

3 comments:

sunflowersojourn said...

I have family members who are "HSP." It's important for us to recognize the differences in each other and also to embrace how the Lord made each of us. We need all kinds of people in this world, and that's what makes it so interesting!

Emmy Cecilia said...

Amen, sister!

Unknown said...

I came across your blog today, and have enjoyed reading it. I am 42 years old, male ,cradle Catholic and recently discovered I was an HSP. I have lived my life thinking something was seriously wrong with me, but recently finding these things out and blogs like yours are helping me to cope. Like you I am very devout in my faith, and always look for the rational way of thinking about everything. When I read this post I can relate to so many things. Thanks for that and Im off to read some more of your blog....James